News / Asia

    Pakistan, Russia Intensify Contacts to Improve Ties

    Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, left, holds talks with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Islamabad, Pakistan, October 4, 2012.
    Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, left, holds talks with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Islamabad, Pakistan, October 4, 2012.
    Ayaz Gul
    Pakistan and Russia have held high-level discussions focusing on how to expand their political, economic and military relationship.  But analysts believe Afghanistan is at the center of the intensified diplomacy as both countries are positioning themselves in anticipation of expected withdrawal of most U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

    Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani traveled to Moscow this week while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Islamabad.

    The high-level exchanges took place just days after President Vladimir Putin cancelled his much anticipated trip to Pakistan, which would have been the first visit by a Russian head of the state.  He was supposed to be in the Pakistani capital this week to attend a summit involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Russia, which was also postponed.  The cancellation is seen by many as a setback for efforts to improve ties.

    However, speaking in Islamabad at the end of their talks Thursday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov both dismissed those suggestions.

    “I think the fact that Foreign Minister Lavrov is with us on two-day notice should also be taken as a very positive indication in terms of Russian Federation’s commitment to this relationship,” said Khar.

    Timing of warmer relationship

    The warming of Islamabad’s ties with Moscow comes amid a persistently strained relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

    “We have had a rollercoaster-type relationship with the United States, repeated sanctions against Pakistan, economic sanctions, threats of military sanctions and especially in the last 10 years - this popular anti-U.S. sentiment has grown so much in Pakistan that now I think people of Pakistan would welcome warming up with the Russians,” said Farooq Hameed Khan, a former Pakistani army brigadier.

    But many critics are skeptical about recent intensified diplomatic and military exchanges between Pakistan and Russia, in view of a troubled history of bilateral ties.

    Pakistan, together with the United States, funded and trained the Afghan Mujahideen who successfully fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.  That collaboration has remained a major hurdle in efforts to revive ties between Islamabad and Moscow.

    Center of diplomacy

    The chairman of Pakistani Senate’s Defense Committee, Mushahid Hussain, says that while the stepped up diplomacy signifies a new beginning in Islamabad’s relations with Moscow, Pakistan, Russia and other regional powers are positioning themselves in anticipation of the expected U.S.-NATO withdrawal from war-ravaged Afghanistan in 2014.

    “So in that context, our relationship with Russia assumes a certain importance because in the Cold War and after, we could not revive that relationship," said Hussein. "This also has implications for regional economic cooperation because Russia is sitting on top of important oil and gas reserves.  So the relationship is not just going to be political, it’s also going to be economic.”

    While in Islamabad, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov also acknowledged that Afghanistan was a major subject of his talks with Pakistani officials.  He stated that both countries share views on how to resolve the Afghan conflict.   

    He emphasized that all proposals with the respect to solving the Afghan conflict must emerge from within that country through a national reconciliation process that involves all stakeholders who abide by the country’s constitution and reject violence.

    Pakistan’s role is considered crucial to the Afghan reconciliation process because of its past links with some insurgent groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

    The United States has acknowledged the key role Islamabad can play in efforts aimed at bringing Afghan insurgents to the negotiating table.  At the same time, U.S. officials have alleged that elements within the Pakistani military still support the militant Haqqani network in carrying out cross-border raids on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.